John Calvin sees revealed by nature

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by psalms109:31, May 15, 2011.

  1. psalms109:31

    psalms109:31
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    The meaning of the parable for Calvin was, instead, that "compassion, which an enemy showed to a Jew, demonstrates that the guidance and teaching of nature are sufficient to show that man was created for the sake of man. Hence it is inferred that there is a mutual obligation between all men." In other writings, Calvin pointed out that people are not born merely for themselves, but rather "mankind is knit together with a holy knot ... we must not live for ourselves, but for our neighbors." Earlier, Cyril of Alexandria had written that "a crown of love is being twined for him who loves his neighbour."

    After receiving this tidbit of information I did some searching on John Calvin on the teaching of God by nature and came across this what do you think or what can you add to this train of thought?


    Professor Michael Sudduth

    Readings in Religious Epistemology

    Handout VI

    John Calvin and the Knowledge of God

    I. The Sensus Divinitatis (Sense of Divinity)

    Calvin claims that there is an awareness or sense of God (sensus divinitatis) implanted in all people by nature. Belief in God is universal according to Calvin. The context of this universally distributed belief is rather minimal: there is a God, He is the Creator, and that He ought to be worshipped.

    Background: Cicero, De Natura Deorum (in which Cicero makes roughly the same point)

    A. Calvin's Grounds for the Sensus Divinitatis Thesis

    Simple Observation: Belief in God seems to be Universal

    The diversity of religious practices and beliefs all presuppose some basic conception of divinity or a Supreme power in the Universe.

    Those who are impious and object to the existence of God nonetheless have in their minds an idea of such a being, so even they are aware of God.

    B. Function of the Sensus Divinitatis

    The function of such an awareness of God is to render humans without excuse before God. They cannot plead ignorance when it comes to divine judgment on their lives. Hence, this knowledge of God possessed by people by nature is closely related to distinctly moral and theological concerns.

    C. Possible Objections (Anticipated by Calvin)

    It might be objected that certain people have invented religion in order to control the masses or common folk. Calvin thinks that such attempts would not be effective unless people already possessed some awareness of God. How else could religion have power over people? There must be some antecedent sympathy or seriousness about religious matters, if leaders or others are able to use it to manipulate people.

    It might also be objected that some people (i.e., atheists and agnostics) do not believe in a God of any sort. So belief in God is not universal. Calvin has at least three responses here.

    First, perhaps some do lack such belief and knowledge, but perhaps this is the result of their doing and does not represent their original condition. Calvin says that it is possible to affect adversely this knowledge, perhaps not just its intensity but also its very presence. How? Acts of sin, especially great wickedness, can deaden the conscience and remove God from our awareness. Such individuals would still be morally accountable because originally they had such knowledge of God, perhaps as a young child, but then lost it as the result of choices freely made.

    Another point suggested by Calvin and compatible with the prior point is that lack of belief in God may only be a temporary thing. There is a universal awareness of God, even if not everyone has such an awareness of God at all times.

    Third, though not explicitly addressed by Calvin, is the possibility that some people do believe in God but either do not believe that they do or believe that they do not believe in God. Perhaps there is a kind of self-deception here. This response depends, contra Descartes, on the mind not being fully transparent to itself. There could be a subconscious realm where religious beliefs can reside though we are not conscious of them. So people might know God without knowing that they know God. This suggestion seems plausible given our understanding of the human psyche since the 19th century (e.g., Freudianism). Consider also the fact that we are only conscious of a very limited number of our beliefs at a given time. The rest are non-occurrent and must be brought to consciousness. Usually this is easily, but sometimes we forget things or just can't recall them at will. This can be drastic in cases like amnesia. Normally we don’t say that people who once consciously believed something, then not conscious of it but later become conscious of it again did not hold the belief in the intervening period of unconsciousness.

    II. The External Witness

    In addition to the sense of divinity within (Institutes, Book 1, chapter 3), Calvin recognizes that there is an external witness to God in creation, in the physical, visible world (Institutes, Book 1, chapter 5).

    A. Inferential Natural Knowledge of God

    One of the main questions surrounding these passages is whether Calvin is presenting something like an argument for God's existence. More generally, is Calvin claiming that human persons infer God's existence from observations of the physical world?

    Clearly Calvin is not offering the sort of extended syllogistic reasoning found in Aquinas and other medieval theologians. However, it certainly seems that he thinks that some of God's attributes, such as wisdom and power, are "displayed" or "revealed" in creation. But this presupposes the kind of causal principle we find in Aquinas, namely that effects resemble their causes. Owing to Calvin's rhetorical style of argument, we should not expect him to formulate formal arguments like Aquinas. But it looks like there is at least a hint of some inferential knowledge of God, which, like Aquinas' arguments, takes as its starting point observations of the physical world. (For an explanation and defense of inferential natural knowledge of God in Calvin account, see my paper "The Prospects for Mediate Natural Theology in John Calvin," Religious Studies (March 1995)).

    B. Objection and Response

    It might be objected that inferential knowledge of God is superfluous since all people already believe in God by way of the Sensus Divinitatis.

    The knowledge delivered by the sensus divinitatis is rather minimal in content. Calvin says nothing about it delivering or producing beliefs about God being wise, good, or powerful. The attributes of God seem to be the sort of thing that is discovered through observations of the physical world, not the operation of the sensus divinitatis by itself. So perhaps the sensus divinitatis and external witness each deliver different sorts of beliefs, but are intended to work together to produce a more complete knowledge of God as the creator, with attributes of goodness and wisdom. (Reformed theologians subsequent to Calvin typically distinguished between these as two independent but mutually supportive modes of knowing God by reason).

    As we shall see later in the course, Alvin Plantinga maintains that the sensus divinitatis can be interpreted a disposition to form certain religious beliefs, and it is triggered by the kinds of circumstances mentioned by Calvin as parts of the external witness. This does not involve drawing an inference from observations of nature, but rather an automatic cognitive response to the experience of the starry night sky, the complexity of the human body, etc. According to Plantinga, the sensus divinitatis and the external witness are two aspects to one process by which human reason comes to know truths about God as creator. (See my paper, "The Prospects for Mediate Natural Theology in John Calvin.")

    III. The Knowledge of God as Redeemer

    Calvin distinguishes between the knowledge of God as creator and the knowledge of God as redeemer. The former is accessible to human reason and constitutes our natural knowledge of God; the latter is not accessible to human reason but must be revealed by God and is believed, not because of reason, but because of what Calvin called the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.

    The knowledge of God as redeemer includes as central the truths about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Since such truth is found only in Scripture, the internal testimony of the Spirit is closely connected to belief that the Bible is God's Word. God's Word, the Bible, at once corrects mistaken beliefs about God as creator and clarifies the knowledge of God as creator had by reason. Furthermore it reveals many new truths about God, specifically in relation to salvation. For Calvin, Scripture clarifies, corrects, and augments the natural knowledge of God. (Compare this with Aquinas' distinction between the preambles and articles of faith and the relationship between faith and reason).

    Calvin thinks that salvation involves the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit in the person, this indwelling imparts spiritual sight and enables people to see the truth of Christianity, specifically the truth of the Bible as God's Word. Calvin says that for believers the Bible is "self-authenticating." Calvin rejects the idea that believers need to prove that the Bible is God's Word, though he permits and actually himself engages a use of argument for the purposes of "useful confirmations." Calvin is clear that faith is first and argument second, but faith is not based on argumentation.
     
    #1 psalms109:31, May 15, 2011
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  2. Earth Wind and Fire

    Earth Wind and Fire
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    Wow....wait till rippon sees this! :thumbs:
     
  3. psalms109:31

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    Can a dead man realize there is a God through what He has made?
     
  4. psalms109:31

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    Romans 4
    Abraham Justified by Faith
    1 What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?[Or Abraham our (fore)father according to the flesh has found?]
     
    #4 psalms109:31, May 18, 2011
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  5. psalms109:31

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    Seek God

    There are those who did not seek God, how can they seek someone they don't know? The priest gave them the Law and they knew by nature there is a God they knew they were sinners. They didn't know what to do, but the priest said without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. So by faith they did what the priest ask of them to do with the sacrifice. They died before Jesus Christ, are they saved?
     
    #5 psalms109:31, May 18, 2011
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  6. psalms109:31

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    How far can a natural man come to God by the article and the quote's? The parable was the good Samaritan.

    Does anyone know any more of article's like the above too see John Calvin view of the natural man?

    How dead did John Calvin see man, when by nature he believe man can be revealed God and how to behave toward our fellow man?
     
  7. psalms109:31

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    Do you believe that John Calvin thought that he could save all of Geneva by weeding out the bad and reach the natural man to the knowledge of the truth, but the Government took it too far? That with the right motivation all would come to how they see scripture or be labeled a heretic and be weeded out?

    If so was that the right motivation?

    Did John Calvin think that he could use the natural man knowledge of that there is a god to bring them to the one true God?

    I'm asking question to find out more about John Calvin, not to be judgmental of him.
     
    #7 psalms109:31, Jan 14, 2012
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  8. saturneptune

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    Instead of worrying about what Calvin thinks about it, Romans 1 goes a long way in answering the question. As human beings, at least those with common sense, we know there is a Creator by observing the order of nature and the universe. The more one studies fields of science, it would seem the reality of God would become more apparant. The sunrise, sunset, plants that produce oxygen, animals that produce CO2, etc. It would take a real lame brain to think this all happened by itself. It takes no faith to believe in a Creator.

    That is a long way from being touched by the Holy Spirit to realize we are sinners, in need of a Savior, and that the same Creator provided a way of salvation through Jesus Christ. This is what requires faith and grace, not realizing there is a Creator.

    The Lord gave us all the same brain Calvin had, and we can think it out for ourselves.
     
  9. psalms109:31

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    By nature we see for us to live we have to sacrifice animals plant life to sustain us, by nature we know we are going to die, in need of a savior, dead animals or plant life.

    We have a desire to live or we would not make sacrifices of others to live. We are dead, we need other life to keep us alive.

    I know there is a Creator and faith that we need to know what we are and what we need comes from His word and you are right they can't do nothing without His word which is Spirit and life.

    What was the purpose of John Calvin doing what he did in Geneva to get rid of heretics?

    We should come to that truth on our own without being lead by men right?
     
    #9 psalms109:31, Jan 14, 2012
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  10. agedman

    agedman
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    I have the assumption from the post, that you are viewing John Calvin in the light of modern age jurisprudence.
     
  11. psalms109:31

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    I am a Spurgeon Calvinist, I believe in the truth found in scripture. I believe the inspired word of God is more important than my doctrinal views

    It looks to me that a natural man can be reached by what God has revealed to them by nature leaving them and especially us as a believer from reaching them with the truth without an excuse by simply starting with them by what they already know or revealed by nature from God.

    Ezekiel 3:
    16 Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
    20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”

    James 5 :
    17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
    Bring Back the Erring One

    19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul[NU-Text reads his soul.] from death and cover a multitude of sins.

    James 3:
    1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
     
    #11 psalms109:31, Jan 14, 2012
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  12. agedman

    agedman
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    It was not my intent to bring you discomfort, but to see if my assumption was indeed valid.

    I have no conflict with the Scriptures as you presented them.
     
  13. psalms109:31

    psalms109:31
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    His word sustains me, not man-made ideas. Man-made ideas will leave me starving and dying like modern age jurisprudence. It is every word that comes from God that we live by. When people want to find fake bills they study the real bills to find the fake one's and scripture is the real bill.

    Jesus and only Jesus :godisgood:
     

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